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EDITORIAL: Summit should hear views of region’s people

Barbados Nation

EDITORIAL: Summit should hear views of region’s people

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THERE IS NO DENIAL of the relevance of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to this region. Similarly, it is agreed that the regional grouping needs to be revitalised to capture the interest of the region’s people. How to rekindle CARICOM should therefore be a priority at its Heads of Government meeting starting here tomorrow.

There is a level of cynicism among the region’s people about CARICOM, while many business leaders – whether in Kingston, Port of Spain or Bridgetown or any other capital – can point to the roadblocks in this integration movement.

At the political level, disunity is evident. There are foreign policy issues such as having a united candidate for the position of Commonwealth Secretary General. In addition, the excuses given about not joining the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) are unbelievable. So the public will listen with interest to see what happens with the territorial dispute between Guyana and Venezuela, given how many CARICOM states may find themselves torn between traditional loyalties to Guyana and dependency on Venezuela’s economic kindness through the PetroCaribe oil facility.

The leaders gathered here must not live up to public expectation that they will make a number of long and generally boring speeches and issue a rambling communiqué full of officialese on Saturday evening, by which time most people would have long been tuned out.

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and his colleagues should not pull the curtain on these talks without dealing with the bread and butter issues people in Portmore, Buxton and Chateaubelair want addressed. It is about their free movement without fear of running afoul of the rules and regulations The Bahamas has instituted, or the threats of deportation evident in most territories. The summit must also be about cross-border crime, LIAT and indeed intra-regional travel if movement within the region is be affordable and meaningful.

We recognise that economic stability is necessary if the region is to realise many of its goals such as air transportation. Therefore the debt burden which affects many nations cannot be just another item on the packed agenda. The sustained hardships encountered by a large number of people in most CARICOM states calls for relief and while individual territories will look to their own plans, a united CARICOM position on dealing with crippling national debt burdens must be addressed. Our very survival depends on finding and implementing meaningful solutions no matter the stringencies.

One of the unfortunate things about these summits is that the leaders do not get to hear from the people directly. It would have been an innovation if those gathered in Bridgetown could have allotted 90 minutes in a town hall setting to hear from a cross-section of Caribbean people resident here on those issues which affect and matter most to them. CARICOM, after all, is about the region’s people.